exit interview, part one

“Exit Interview”

a short story


rus vanwestervelt

copyright 2006

part one of seven parts

Aidan shifted again in the chair, a worn, burgundy-clothed seat that was nothing more than the similar standard-issued piece of office crap he had sat in for the past 25 years.

He was growing impatient. How long had he been waiting in this room? It must have been at least 35, 40 minutes, if not an hour. He looked around again at the old paintings of children running in fields, rusty water buckets beside white picket fences, the paintings all stained with nicotine sucked in and out of countless lungs. The walls were brown, too, but Aidan could not tell if it was a natural color of the wallpaper or a shade that had just hued itself over more vibrant colors of greens, blues, and yellows.

In front of him was. . . . an antique, mahogany desk, the only one of its kind in the room. On it rested a banker’s lamp and several messy piles of manila folders with memos scribbled on sticky notes, now falling this way and that. Squared neatly in the center of the desk was one more manila folder, with the words AIDAN BRANCH typed neatly in the right corner.

He looked to his watch, as a matter of habit, but it had stopped earlier in the day. 12:53 p.m., to be exact. No clocks on the walls in this room, either. This, he noticed the very moment he walked in, even before taking a seat in the worn burgundy chair.

He didn’t even know why he was waiting around. They never do anything with what you tell them, anyway, he thought. And it’s not like the information you share with them is ever going to make it to the people who need to hear it the most.

Screw this.

Aidan stood up, stretched his arms above his head, and cracked his knuckles, a rippling sound of popping joints that his officemates have never been able to appreciate.

He thought that it was a shame to waste such a good ripple of pops in an empty office. It would have been nice to let the boys and girls of HR hear just one more round of snap, crackle, and pop of bones on bones.

He brought his hands down to his hips, shook his head in disbelief at the way in which he was spending his final moments here, and turned to leave. This time for good.

“My apologies for keeping you waiting so long, Mr. Branch.”

Inside the door stood a member of the firm Aidan had never seen before. He was taller than his own formidable 6’1” height, but he came nowhere near Aidan’s weight of a solid 270 (okay, so the last few months of celebrating bumped it up a good 10, 15 pounds to 285). This gentleman in front of him was more like 140 pounds, nearly half the size of Aidan.

“If you don’t mind. Please, have a seat.” The gentleman smiled and offered a bony hand toward the chair. His fingernails were yellow and dry, almost flaky, if that were possible, and dirt that had gathered under the nails some time ago looked, well, almost green.

Aidan, still speechless, did not argue with the stranger’s request. He turned around, sat in the burgundy-clothed seat, and waited for the man to settle himself.

He sat down and immediately opened the right desk drawer and pulled out a tarnished name plate, which he dusted off and placed near the front of the desk. He then pulled a pair of reading glasses from his shirt pocket and squinted at the name printed on the manila folder. He opened the file and looked at the first page.

“Ah, yes. Here we go, Mr. Branch. Everything seems to be in order, I’m afraid.”

Aidan glanced at the name plate and studied the name. It didn’t ring any bells, that’s for sure.

“Well, no one ever really wants to leave now, do they?” Aidan chuckled a little uncomfortably. He looked at the gentleman in front of him and leaned in, as if fishing for some affirmation. “At least I can say that I am leaving on good terms, right?”

Aidan waited for a quick response, but he got nothing more than a momentary shift of the gentleman’s eyes above the rims of his glasses, as if to say You’re kidding me, right?

Aiden leaned back in his chair and folded his hands across his stomach. He expected the first question to come soon, probably even something about work climate, his value-ad, maybe even about diversity in the work place.

What he didn’t expect was that the first question out of the gate would be a doozey. It was, though, and Aidan, chin to chest in thought, hoped that Mr. Trevor Marks and the rest of the exit interview was not going to be so torturous.

A note to my readers: This is part one of a story that I am drafting “live” on my blog. What you have just read is called a “vomit” draft, where the purpose of writing is to just get the story down first and then worry about revising it later. It is not in any way a final, publishable piece of fiction. To reach that point, I need to trust this process and not be inhibited by how it might look at this stage. Try using a vomit draft to get your ideas on paper…it’s the first step toward publication!